|Publication number||US5439144 A|
|Application number||US 08/173,210|
|Publication date||Aug 8, 1995|
|Filing date||Dec 27, 1993|
|Priority date||Dec 27, 1993|
|Also published as||CA2136878A1, EP0659380A1|
|Publication number||08173210, 173210, US 5439144 A, US 5439144A, US-A-5439144, US5439144 A, US5439144A|
|Inventors||Charles R. Holzner|
|Original Assignee||Steiner Company, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (11), Referenced by (29), Classifications (7), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to apparatus for dispensing liquid soap, normally in discrete small quantities or charges. Such dispensing apparatus is used particularly for hygienic purposes, in public or institutional washrooms or the like or wherever there are a relatively large number of different users.
The invention is an improvement over the device disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,082,150 issued Jan. 21, 1992, entitled "Liquid Dispensing System Including a Discharge Assembly Providing A Positive Air Flow Condition", and U.S. Pat. No. 5,174,476 issued Dec. 29, 1992, entitled "Liquid Soap Dispensing System", the entire disclosures of which including all drawing figures are incorporated by reference.
One prior type of soap dispenser utilizes a container or cartridge of liquid soap which is removably mounted on a dispensing apparatus so that it can be replaced by another cartridge when it is empty. Such a dispenser is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 1,326,880. However, the soap container of that dispenser is of the refillable type. This means that the spent containers must be collected, sterilized and refilled and sealed for reuse, which is a time consuming and expensive operation. Because the container is refillable, it has a refill opening which, although normally closed, is accessible to users and could permit contamination of the contents or refilling with soap from an unauthorized source. Furthermore, the container is readily removable from the dispenser by any user, so that the entire container could easily be replaced by a "bootleg" container.
To avoid this problem, it is known to provide dispensers with closed, lockable cabinets in which the refill cartridge or container is enclosed, so as to prevent access by unauthorized persons. But this type of housing is relatively expensive. Furthermore, such prior dispensers have relatively complex construction, frequently using a large number of parts, the assembly of which entails substantial labor.
Efforts have been made to simplify the design of soap dispensers with replaceable cartridges while retaining the ability to restrict access to the dispenser, for instance refer to U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,673,109 and 4,886,192. While solving the problem of design simplification for easier maintenance as illustrated in the construction of the '109 and '192 patents, there has arisen the problem of dispensing doses of soap upon rapid and repeated (5-15) compressions of the nipple.
Repeated attempts to solve this problem of increasing suction are evidenced by U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,646,945, 4,673,109, 4,930,667, 5,082,450 and 5,174,476 by Steiner Company, Inc., but have not proven completely successful. No matter how many different attempts have been made, the result has always been subject to commercial problems.
It is a general object of the present invention to provide an improved liquid soap dispensing system which avoids the disadvantages of prior dispensing apparatus while affording additional structural and operating advantages.
An important object of the invention is the provision of a liquid soap dispensing system which is of simple and economical construction, characterized by a minimal number of parts and great ease of assembly which may be repeatedly operated without creating unwanted suction inside the soap cartridge.
Another object of the invention is the provision of a unique disposable cartridge for use in such a dispensing system.
Another object of the invention is to provide a liquid soap dispensing system including a housing and a discharge mechanism carried thereby for movement between a normal rest configuration and an actuating configuration for dispensing repeated doses of liquid soap from an associated cartridge having a wall, the improvement comprising: a receptacle having an aperture therein positioned in a wall of the cartridge, a plastic filter in the receptacle having a sealing mechanism connected thereto movable between a sealing position wherein the sealing mechanism seals the aperture and a filtering position wherein the sealing mechanism is away from the aperture and the filter is in contact with the aperture establishing an air path between the inside and outside of the cartridge, the filter being compressed within the receptacle such that upon repeated activation of the pump member the vacuum inside the cartridge does not exceed 12" of water.
Another object of the invention is to provide a liquid soap dispenser of the type set forth, wherein the cartridge includes a blow molded thin walled plastic container with an externally threaded neck for connection to the compressible nipple and a wall, a receptacle positioned in a wall of the cartridge having an aperture therein, a plastic filter in the receptacle having a sealing mechanism connected thereto movable between a sealing position wherein the sealing mechanism seals the aperture and a filtering position wherein the sealing mechanism is away from the aperture and the filter is in contact with the aperture establishing an air path between the inside and outside of the cartridge, the filter having an average pore diameter of about 0.25 microns and being compressed within the receptacle such that upon repeated activation of the pump member the vacuum inside the cartridge does not exceed 12" of water.
The invention consists of certain novel features and a combination of parts hereinafter fully described, illustrated in the accompanying drawings, and particularly pointed out in the appended claims, it being understood that various changes in the details may be made without departing from the spirit, or sacrificing any of the advantages of the present invention.
For the purpose of facilitating an understanding of the invention, there is illustrated in the accompanying drawings a preferred embodiment thereof, from an inspection of which, when considered in connection with the following description, the invention, its construction and operation, and many of its advantages should be readily understood and appreciated.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a soap dispensing system, constructed in accordance with and embodying the features of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an exploded, perspective view of the soap dispensing system of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a further enlarged, fragmentary view in vertical section taken along the line 3--3 in FIG. 1, and illustrating the discharge assembly in its normal rest configuration;
FIG. 4 is a view in horizontal section taken along the line 4--4 in FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the disposable cartridge of FIG. 2;
FIG. 6 is a rear elevational view of the disposable cartridge of FIG. 7;
FIGS. 7 and 8 are sectional views of the receptacle and filter and sealing mechanism showing the various positions thereof.
Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, there is illustrated a soap dispensing system, generally designated by the numeral 20, constructed in accordance with and embodying the features of the present invention which can be assembled without the use of fastening means. The soap dispensing system 20 comprises a dispenser 25 adapted to be mounted on an associated support surface 21, such as on a wall 22 and a disposable cartridge 90 which contains a supply of liquid soap and is removably mountable on the dispenser 25 for cooperation therewith to control the dispensing of liquid soap therefrom.
Referring also to FIGS. 3 and 6, the dispenser 25 includes a housing 30, which is preferably of unitary one-piece construction and may be formed of molded plastic. The housing 30 includes a flat rectangular base wall 31 and upstanding rectangular mounting wall 32 integral with the base wall 31 at the rear edge thereof and disposed substantially perpendicular thereto. The mounting wall 32 may have fastener holes 33 therethrough for receiving associated fasteners (not shown), securely to mount the housing 30 on the associated support surface 21. Integral with the base wall 31 and extending upwardly therefrom along the front and side edges thereof is a continuous peripheral flange 34, the front portion of which has a notch 34a in the upper edge thereof. Side flanges 35 are respectively integral with the side edges of the mounting wall 32 and project forwardly therefrom to join the peripheral flange 34.
Respectively integral with the side flanges 35 at the forward or distal edges thereof, and projecting laterally inwardly therefrom substantially parallel to the mounting wall 32, are two retaining rails 36, each extending along the mounting wall 32 to below the upper end of the flange 34. Integral with the base wall 31 and with the mounting wall 32 and substantially perpendicular to each are a pair of laterally spaced-apart, upstanding support plates 37, respectively provided with laterally aligned bearing notches 38 in the upper edges thereof. Formed in the base wall 31 is an elongated generally rectangular opening 39 (FIGS. 3 and 4) which extends laterally between the support plates 37, the opening 39 having a rearwardly extending rectangular arm 39a and having an arcuate forward end (not shown).
Integral with the housing 30 is a receptacle 40 having a peripheral wall 41 which defines the forward portion of the opening 39, the peripheral wall 41 having an arcuate front end and parallel side portions, which side portions are respectively parallel to the support plates 37 and are integral with the inner surfaces thereof at the front ends thereof. The peripheral wall 41 projects above and below the base wall 31 and is closed at its lower end by a bottom wall 42 which is disposed substantially parallel to the base wall 31. The bottom wall 42 has a circular opening 43 therein adjacent to the forward end thereof, and a generally T-shaped slot 44 therethrough (FIG. 3) just rearwardly of the circular opening 43.
The dispenser 25 also includes a discharge assembly 50 which is removably mounted in the housing 30. The discharge assembly 50 includes a handle 51 comprising a rectangular plate 52 provided at its upper end with an inclined portion 53, which is in turn provided at its distal end with laterally outwardly extending cylindrical pivot lugs 54. In use, the handle 51 is adapted to be dropped into the housing 30 between the support plates 37 and through the opening 39 in the base wall 31, the pivot lugs 54 being respectively received in the bearing notches 38 for pivotally supporting the handle 51 for movement between actuating and retracted positions. The plate 52 has a width slightly less than the width of the opening 39, so that the base wall 31 at the rear end of the opening 39 and the rear flanges 46 of the receptacle 40 provide rear and front stops to limit the pivotal movement of the handle 51. Formed in the front surface of the plate 52 is a rectangular recess 55, in the lower end of which is formed a rectangular slot 56 which extends through the thickness of the plate 52 midway between the side edges thereof and in position so as to be disposed below the base wall 31 when the handle 51 is disposed in its mounted condition in the housing 30.
The discharge assembly 50 also includes a bias unit 60 which comprises a latch member 61 and a bias leaf 70. The latch member 61 is generally in the form of a clevis having a pair of parallel, spaced-apart arms 62, respectively provided with angled feet (not shown), but illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 4,673,109, the disclosure of which is herein incorporated by reference.
The bias leaf 70 comprises a thin, flat, rectangular band which is formed of a suitable flexible and resilient material, such as a suitable plastic. One end of the bias leaf 70 is fixedly secured to the rear surface of the bight portion 67 of the latch member 61 by suitable means (not shown). The bias leaf 70 is fabricated with a predetermined curvature therein, and is provided with a curved tip 72 at its distal end which has a rectangular slot 73 therethrough for a purpose to be explained more fully below. There is also provided a key (not shown) having a lug thereon which is disposed for mating engagement in one of the key sockets to effect manual rotation of the latch member 61 about the axis of the pivot lugs, for a purpose which will be explained below.
The discharge assembly 50 also includes a pump member 80, which is generally in the shape of a rectangular, box-like, open-top frame. More particularly, the pump member 80 includes a pair of parallel rectangular side walls 81 interconnected, respectively at the forward and rearward ends thereof by a front bearing wall 82 and a rear wall 83. The rear wall 83 has an extension portion 84 which projects upwardly above the upper edges of the side wall 81 and is provided with a forwardly extending pin 85. Integral with the outer or rear surface of the rear wall 83 is a rearwardly extending rectangular positioning lug 86. The side walls 81 are interconnected at the lower edges thereof, intermediate the front and rear ends thereof by a rectangular bottom web 87. The pump member 80 is dimensioned so that it can fit between the notches 47 of the receptacle rear flanges 46, through the notch 48a in the stop web 48 and between the bearing bosses 66 of latch member 61 for reciprocating sliding movement forwardly and rearwardly along the bottom wall 42 of the receptacle 40 between pumping and release positions.
A plate 88 is horizontally mounted within the flange 34 and has an aperture 89 therein of irregular shape. As before seen in FIGS. 2 and 4, the aperture 89 has a circular edge portion 89a, straight edge portions 89b and 89c, and first and second lobe portions 89d and 89e. This plate 88 with the irregular aperture 89 serves as on part of an optional anti-bootleg device which is not part of this invention.
Next, the pump member 80 is mounted in the receptacle 40. For this purpose, the front end of the pump member 80 is inserted upwardly and forwardly into the receptacle 40 between the notches 47 in the rear flanges 46, the arm 39a of the opening 39 providing clearance for the extension portion 84 of the rear wall 83. The pump member 80 is slid forwardly through the notch 48a in the stop web 48 and between the bearing bosses 66 on the latch member feet 63. The bias leaf 70 is received down into the pump member 80 and the pin 85 is inserted through the slot 73 of the bias leaf 70 so that the bias leaf 70 bears against the rear wall 83 of the pump member 80.
Next, the handle 51 is mounted. For this purpose, the pump member 80 is slid forwardly against the urging of the bias leaf 70 to provide clearance so that the handle plate 52 can be dropped down through the opening 39 behind the receptacle rear flanges 46. It will be appreciated that the arms 62 of the latch member 61 bear against the rear surface of the stop web 48 to limit forward pivotal movement of the latch member 61 when the pump member 80 is slid forwardly. The handle 51 is then dropped into position with the pivot lugs 54 disposed in the bearing notches 38, as explained above. The pump member 80 is then released and it slides rearwardly under the urging of the bias leaf 70 to a normal rest position, illustrated in FIG. 3, wherein the rear wall 83 seats in the recess 55 of the handle plate 52 and bears thereagainst to hold the handle 51 in its retracted position against the rear end of the opening 39. The positioning lug 86 is received in the slot 56, effectively to prevent upward movement of the handle 51 from its mounted condition. Thus, it will be seen that the handle 51 and the pump member 80 cooperate to hold each other in their mounted conditions. In order to disassemble the discharge assembly 50, the above-described assembly procedure is simply reversed.
Referring now also to FIGS. 5-8 of the drawings, the cartridge 90 includes a generally box-like container 91, which may be formed of a suitable plastic material. Preferably, the container 91 is generally in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped having a top wall 92, a bottom wall 93, a front wall 94 having a cut away portion 94a and a lug portion 94b, an upper rear wall 95a and a lower rear wall 95b and a pair of opposed side walls 96. The front wall 94 and the side walls 96 are set back or recessed along their lower edges adjacent to their junction with the bottom wall 93 to define a support shoulder 97. The top wall 92 projects rearwardly a slight distance beyond the rear wall 95 to form an overhang which defines a stop flange 98. Formed in the container 91 at the junctions of the rear walls 95a and 95b, respectively, with the side walls 96, are two elongated longitudinal grooves 100 which extend from the level of the stop flange 98 downwardly to the bottom wall 93. The lower portion of the grooves 100 are cut away, as at 101, so as to define lugs 102 adjacent to the upper ends of the grooves 100. The top wall 92 of cartridge 90 has a receptacle 103 extending therein (see FIGS. 7 and 8) in the form of an inwardly extending cylinder having an apertured rear wall 104, thereby to establish an air passageway between the inside and outside of the container 90.
Frictionally held in the receptacle 103 is a filter 109 which is a porous "Teflon" or polytetrafluoro-ethylene plastic sold under the trade name "Porex", for a molded porous PTFE, having a water entry point of 1.6 p.s.i. which is equivalent to 43 inches of water. The filter has an average pore size of 0.25 microns and a pore volume of 42%. The melting range of the filter is 314°-338° and the crystallization range is 275°-320°. "Porex" is sold by Porex Technologies of Fairburn, Ga. which publishes complete specifications for the material.
The filter 109 is carried by a shaft 109a, the end of which is formed into a stopper 109b which is on the inside of the cartridge 91 with the soap (not shown). The stopper 109b seals the apertured rear wall 104 in the position of FIG. 7 and establishes an air flow into the cartridge 90 in the position of FIG. 8. The filter 109 in both FIGS. 7 and 8 seal the receptacle 103 to prevent leakage of soap from the cartridge 90. When the filter 109 is in the receptacle 103 as shown in FIG. 8, the filter material is compressed for a purpose hereafter set forth.
Integral with the bottom wall 93 adjacent to the forward end thereof is a cylindrical nozzle or neck 105 which projects downwardly from the bottom wall 93 and surrounds an outlet opening 106 therein (not shown). A frustoconical portion 105b connects the flat bottom wall 93 with the cylindrical neck 105a. The neck 105a has a radially outwardly extending circumferential rib 107 forming an external thread and terminates in an annular end surface 108.
Secured to the neck 105a and depending therefrom is a compressible nipple 110 having an annular flange (not shown) at the upper end thereof which is integral with an upstanding cylindrical wall adapted to surround the lower end of the neck 105a and abut against the circumferential flange. The nipple 110 is provided with a normally-closed discharge slit 113 at its distal end. Trapped between the flange and the end surface 108 of the neck 105a is a check valve assembly (not shown), the parts being clamped together by a cylindrical retainer clip 116 which securely holds the nipple 110 and the valve assembly on the neck 105. The construction, assembly and operation of the neck 105, the nipple 110 and the valve assembly are all described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,673,109 and 4,886,192.
Preferably, the cartridge 90 is inexpensive to manufacture so as to be disposable. The container 91 is filled with liquid soap by the manufacturer or supplier of the cartridge 90 and the nipple 110 is then mounted in place. It is a significant aspect of the invention that the cartridge 90 and the filter 105, if of a specific size, permits the dispenser to be activated many times without establishing a vacuum that distorts the cartridge 90. In mounting the cartridge 90, it is placed over the dispenser 25 with the neck 105a disposed downwardly. The cartridge 90 is slid down along the mounting wall 32, with the retaining rails being respectively received in the longitudinal grooves 100. As the cartridge 90 is lowered into its use position, the nipple 110 extends downwardly into the receptacle 40 between the stop webs 48 and 49 and in coaxial alignment with the circular opening 43 in the bottom wall 42.
In its normal rest condition, the latch flange 68 of the latch member 61 projects forwardly beyond the stop web 48 so as to obstruct the path of the neck 105. More particularly, the lower end of the retainer clip 116 engages the cam surface 69 and cams the latch member 61 into pivotal movement rearwardly to accommodate passage of the retainer clip 116. As soon as the retainer clip 116 has moved past the latch flange 68, it snaps back forwardly under the urging of the bias leaf 70 into the space between the circumferential rib 107 and the circumferential flange 108 for engagement with the latter to prevent retrograde movement of the cartridge 90. As soon as the retainer clip 116 cams past the latch flange 68, the lower end of the retainer clip 116 seats on the upper edges of the stop webs 48 and 49 to support the cartridge 90 in its normal mounted or use position, illustrated in FIG. 3, in which position the lower end of the nipple 110 projects a very slight distance below the bottom of the receptacle 40 through the circular opening 43 therein.
The container 91 is dimensioned so that when the cartridge 90 is disposed in its use position on the dispenser 25, the upper edge of the peripheral flange 34 of the housing 30 is disposed for engagement with the support shoulder 97 of the container 91 and the upper edge of the mounting wall 32 is disposed for engagement with the stop flange 98. Preferably, the stop flange 98 wraps around the sides of the container 91 for engagement with the upper ends of the side flanges 35 of the housing 30. The parts are all dimensioned so that when the cartridge 90 is disposed in its use position on the dispenser 25, the outer surfaces of the front wall 94 and the side walls 96 are, respectively, substantially coplanar with the corresponding portions of the outer surface of the housing peripheral flange 34, and the outer surface of the side walls 96, are respectively substantially coplanar with the outer surfaces of the housing side flanges 35 so as to present an attractive, smooth outward appearance. Additionally, the front lug 94b fits within and rests upon the notch 34a in the front wall 34. It will be appreciated that when the cartridge 90 is disposed in its use position, the lugs 102 engage the upper ends of the retaining rails 36, effectively to prevent forward tilting movement of the cartridge 90 with respect to the dispenser 25.
The venting of the container 91 through the receptacle 103 and filter 109 prevents too large a vacuum from being established in the container and permits, for the first time, dispensing many consecutive doses of soap of substantially the same volume without distorting the sides 96 of the container 91. It has been determined that for a one liter volume container the filter 109 of "Porex" (0.25 micron material) should be 1/4" in diameter and not longer than about 5/16". The resistance of the filter 109 should be enough to establish about 4-5" of water vacuum when the soap level is above the filter 109 (to prevent soap leaking from the nipple 110) but at no time should the filter 109 prevent sufficient replacement of air after a dispensing operation so that the vacuum exceeds about 12" of water, at which level the side walls 96 distort. Use of the Porex® material is important because usually the level of soap will be below the receptacle 103 and filter 109 contained therein, but there is still a slight negative pressure in the container 91, which limits or entirely prevents soap dripping from the distal end of the nozzle 110 at the slit 113. This is very important commercially since one of the biggest complaints about soap dispensers is the mess which some create. Because the pore size of the filter 109 is so small, soap should be prevented from contacting same to ensure that the pores are not clogged by dried soap which can prevent air from flowing into the cartridge 90. Another advantage of the invention is that the small pore size of the filter 109 permits operation of the dispenser 25 in environments with substantial quantities of air borne bacteria without contaminating the soap.
When the cartridge 90 is filled and stored, the stopper 109b is in its sealing position of FIG. 7 and after the cartridge 90 is inserted into the dispenser 25, the filter 109 is pushed into the receptacle 103 to unseal the stopper 109b as in FIG. 8 to establish the air flow path into the cartridge 90.
The check valve assembly (not shown) normally permits liquid soap to flow downwardly through the neck 105a to fill the nipple 110 with a charge of liquid soap. In order to dispense this charge of liquid soap, a user places his palm under the nipple 110 and pulls the handle 51 forwardly to its actuating position with his fingers. This drives the pump member 80 forwardly to its pumping position and into engagement with the nipple 110, compressing it and ejecting the charge of liquid soap therefrom through the discharge slit 113, this compression also serving to close the check valve assembly to prevent liquid soap from flowing back up from the nipple 110 into the neck 105. When the handle 105 is released, the pump member 80 returns to its release position and the handle 51 is returned to its retracted position under the urging of the bias leaf 70. The check valve assembly reopens to permit a new charge of liquid soap to flow into the nipple 110. When the cartridge 90 is spent, it is removed by the serviceman, as described in the '109 patent.
From the foregoing, it can be seen that there has been provided an improved soap dispensing system which is simple and economical construction, utilizing a dispenser which carries a discharge assembly and a disposable liquid soap cartridge removably mountable on the dispenser, wherein the cartridge is automatically latched in position on the dispenser to prevent unauthorized removal thereof, and the parts of the discharge assembly are few can be readily assembled and disassembled without the use of tools, and retain themselves in the assembled mounted condition without any fastening means. The dispensing system enables repeated operation of the dispenser without establishing a vacuum in the soap cartridge which distorts the cartridge and includes an anti-bootleg device permitting several proprietary combinations to be used.
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|U.S. Classification||222/189.06, 222/209, 222/482, 222/207|
|Dec 27, 1993||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: STEINER COMPANY, INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:HOLZNER, CHARLES R.;REEL/FRAME:006824/0761
Effective date: 19931206
|Mar 2, 1999||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Aug 8, 1999||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|
|Oct 19, 1999||FP||Expired due to failure to pay maintenance fee|
Effective date: 19990808